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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2019 5 days ago

Oakland Nature Preserve seeks donations for matching grant

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The money will help fund environmental- education programs throughout the year.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

The Oakland Nature Preserve is in need of community support to help raise funds for a challenge match grant it received.

The preserve has until Aug. 31 to raise $15,000 in order to receive a grant of that same total. The monies collected from the grant go toward funding environmental-education programs held at the Oakland Nature Preserve throughout the year. Those interested in donating can do so in person at the Oakland Nature Preserve or submit donations online or by mail, 747 Machete Trail, Oakland, FL 34760.

The grant was given by a private foundation that wishes to remain anonymous. On top of the matching grant, that private foundation also donated $10,000 to the Oakland Nature Preserve, which doesn’t need to be matched in order for the nature preserve to receive it, said Jennifer Hunt, managing director of the Oakland Nature Preserve.

“That grant will help pay for our educators throughout the school year,” Hunt said. “Our educators will lead field trips (and) they lead the school groups that come in each week. This past year, we  had over 2,400 students that came out through the school year. That was made possible because of this education grant.” 

In addition to helping pay educators throughout the year, the grant money also helps pay for supplies and other items needed for the Oakland Nature Preserve’s environmental-education programs.

“(It) also (helps pay) for some of our science Saturday events that we offer,” Hunt said. “It pretty much covers anything we need to cover, whether it’s our teacher rates, supplies we use for the classes, equipment and those types of things.”

Hunt said one of the biggest benefits of the grant is it helps keep costs low for local schools that wish to take students on field trips to the Oakland Nature Preserve. 

“Without this grant, we would have challenges in having our programs be affordable for groups to come out,” Hunt said. “The grant will pay for the instructors for most of the year, which allows schools to be able to come out on a regular basis for a very reasonable rate.”

One of the school programs the grant money helps fund is the Oakland Nature Preserve’s new home-school series that meets monthly. It’s a new program that brings home-schooled students ages 7 to 14 out to the nature preserve once a month to learn about different parts of the environment. This was the first year the program was held, and 26 families participated, Hunt said.

“We are able to help supplement their education (by) giving them some hands-on experiences they may not be able to get at home,” Hunt said. “We are an important place for people to be able to come and learn about some of the environment that’s disappearing here in Florida. Even if someone is only able to donate $5, that $5 is going toward another child being able to come out and get that hands-on experience (with the environment). Some of the kids that come out here have never been in an environment like this.”

Hunt added that this isn’t the first year the Oakland Nature Preserve has been awarded this matching grant. She also said the community’s support of the preserve when needed is something that makes her smile.

“The community is so supportive, and when they hear that we have a need, they usually come out and, many times, go above and beyond,” Hunt said. “One of the things that I like to think about the preserve is this preserve belongs to the community. You can come out any time of the year and sit and relax and enjoy (the preserve) and get away from the hustle and bustle of life. … Once again, this is the community’s preserve, and I believe they now consider it theirs. That’s what’s most important.”

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer. He graduatedĀ from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science. Got a story idea? Contact Eric at...

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